Environmental and behavioral changes may influence the exposure of an Arctic apex predator to pathogens and contaminants

Scientific Reports
By: , and 

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Abstract

Recent decline of sea ice habitat has coincided with increased use of land by polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the southern Beaufort Sea (SB), which may alter the risks of exposure to pathogens and contaminants. We assayed blood samples from SB polar bears to assess prior exposure to the pathogens Brucella spp., Toxoplasma gondii, Coxiella burnetii, Francisella tularensis, and Neospora caninum, estimate concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and evaluate risk factors associated with exposure to pathogens and POPs. We found that seroprevalence of Brucella spp. and T. gondii antibodies likely increased through time, and provide the first evidence of exposure of polar bears to C. burnetii, N. caninum, and F. tularensis. Additionally, the odds of exposure to T. gondii were greater for bears that used land than for bears that remained on the sea ice during summer and fall, while mean concentrations of the POP chlordane (ΣCHL) were lower for land-based bears. Changes in polar bear behavior brought about by climate-induced modifications to the Arctic marine ecosystem may increase exposure risk to certain pathogens and alter contaminant exposure pathways.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Environmental and behavioral changes may influence the exposure of an Arctic apex predator to pathogens and contaminants
Series title Scientific Reports
DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-13496-9
Volume 7
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Macmillan Publishers
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB
Description 13193; 12 p.
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Beaufort Sea